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Mergansers: Subfamily Merginæ

Three species of Merganser occur in New York and New England. One, the American Merganser, is a bird of fresh water streams and lakes, breeding in northern New England and occurring as a migrant or winter visitant on streams and lakes. The Red-breasted Merganser is a common winter visitant off the sea-coast. Both of these species get their food by diving and pursuing fish under water; both when flying show large areas of white in the wings. A third species, the Hooded Merganser, is a rare summer resident in northern New England and a rather uncommon migrant in the rest of New England and in New York.

HOODED MERGANSER. Lophodytes cucullatus
17.50 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head, neck, and upper back black, a broad white patch extending from back of the eye backward, with a narrow black border, forming a crest which is either erected or extended backward; two black bands before the bend of the wing; flanks reddish-brown; rest of under parts white; wing-patch and long feathers on the back white. Ad. ♀.— Throat light; rest of head, with bushy crest, dull reddish-brown; rest of upper parts sooty-brown; wing with a white bar; flanks dark; rest of under parts white. Im. ♂.— Head and neck light brown; crest brownishwhite, with brown edge; otherwise like ♀.

Nest, in holes in trees. Eggs, white.

The Hooded Merganser breeds in some of the lakes in northern and eastern Maine, and in northeastern New Hampshire; elsewhere in New England and New York it is a rather uncommon migrant in October, March, and April, and a rare winter visitant. It occurs on inland streams and ponds, and is noted for the speed of its flight. The male can be confused only with the Buffle-head, but should be distinguished by the long slender bill, and by the fact that the white patch in the crown does not reach the top of the head, particularly when the crest is not erected. The Merganser's flanks, moreover, are brown; the Buffile-head's snowy white. The female has the characteristic merganser head, with a long bill and loose crest behind, but is much smaller than either of her relatives, the two following species.

22.00 in.

Ad. ♂.—Head dark green (at a distance apparently black); long crest on hind head; a broad white ring around neck; upper back black, lower back gray; wing mostly white, crossed by two black bars; upper breast buff, streaked with black; rest of under parts white; bill, legs, and feet red. Ad. ♀ and Im.— Throat white; rest of head and upper neck, with a crest on hind head, reddish-brown; back and tail slate-gray; wings darker, when spread showing a white patch; under parts white; bill, legs, and feet reddish-brown.

Nest, on the ground, either in rushes or under thick spruces. Eggs, creamy buff.

The Red-breasted Merganser is an abundant migrant along the sea-coast in March and April, and in October and November; it is occasionally found as a migrant on inland waters, especially near the sea, but the common inland merganser is the following species. The Red-breasted Merganser is also a common winter visitant on the New England coast, and on the lower Hudson River, but is not common in winter off Long Island. According to Knight (“'Birds of Maine "), it is quite a common summer resident along the eastern half of the Maine coast and also breeds on some of the interior lakes.

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When feeding it keeps in shallow water, either close to the shore or over shoals, and dives in pursuit of its food. The male is unmistakable: the long bill, the black head set off by the white collar below, identify him as a merganser. The loose feathers of the crest, and the reddish-brown breast distinguish him from his relative, the American Merganser. The females and young when seen in good light show a reddish-brown neck and head. When flying, the long outstretched neck and head and the gray tone of the back distinguish them from the other sea ducks with white wing-patches. In the female American Merganser the upper throat only is white, and the top of the head and lower throat are darker brown than in the Red-breasted Merganser; moreover, the former is almost never seen in the sea itself, though it occurs occasionally in estuaries and at the mouths of rivers.

25.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head and neck apparently black (glossy green in strong light); no crest on hind head; middle of back black; tail gray; broad collar about neck, sides of upper back, and entire under parts (except neck) pure white (tinged below in strong light with salmon); wings white, showing black quill-feathers and a black bar when spread; bill and feet red. Ad. ♀.— Throat white; rest of head and neck, with a crest on hind head, reddish-brown; rest of upper parts and tail gray; wings black, with a white patch; under parts white; bill reddish-brown; feet reddish-orange.

Nest, in a hollow tree. Eggs, white, tinged with buff.

The American Merganser is a summer resident of the streams and lakes in northern New Hampshire, and in northern and eastern Maine. In the rest of New England it occurs as a rather common migrant along the larger streams, and as a winter visitant wherever falls and rapids keep the streams open during the winter, as on Merrimac below Manchester, N. H., and along the Connecticut below Enfield; it is tolerably common along the Hudson from January to March. Like the preceding species, it is an expert diver, and pursues small fish in the shallow water. When it rises from the water, it generally pats the surface for some distance with its feet, showing the broad white patches on the wing. (See preceding species.)

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